The new year has scarcely started and already we've got a major musicloss to report: guitarist Ron Asheton, a founding member of Americanpunk pioneers the Stooges, was found dead this morning at his home inAnn Arbor, Michigan. He was 60.
Police were summoned to Asheton's house by his personal assistant, whohad been unable to reach him for several days. Responding officersdiscovered him in his bedroom looking "fairly peaceful," and while anautopsy will be performed, there were no signs of any foul play or druguse; the likely cause is a heart attack.
There was no such term as punk rock when Asheton, his drummer brotherScott, bassist Dave Alexander and vocalist Jim Osterberg--aka Iggy Pop--formed the Stooges in the University of Michigan college town of AnnArbor in 1967. To say that they quickly stood out against the hippiecounterculture backdrop of the day is beyond understatement. Whileothers sang about peace, love and understanding, the Stooges werevoicing the cry of confused, frustrated and alienated youth everywherewith in-your-face anthems like "Not Right," "No Fun" and "I Wanna BeYour Dog." Released right around the time of Woodstock in the summer of'69, the band's self-titled debut album, as well as its followupsFunhouse (1970) and Raw Power (1973) would become touchstones forvirtually all who'd later come down the punk pike--or for that matterthe grunge one, too.
True, the early Stooges got most of their notoriety due to frontmanIggy's outrageous onstage antics, which included everything fromsmearing peanut butter across his bare chest and writhing on the groundthrough broken glass to diving headfirst into stunned audiences. But itwas Asheton's sledge (and sludge) hammer lead guitar (and on Raw Power,bass) that served as the sonic battering ram for the Stooges' music,from the anarchy-r-us wah-wah pedal on "1969" and the hellbent chordsof "Dog" to the thunderstruck riffs of "TV Eye" and "Loose."
While the Stooges broke up in 1974, Iggy Pop's long-running solocareer, as well as the band's influential legacy, kept their musicalive. That ultimately led to a 2003 reformation that, as of the end of2008 and a just-completed European tour, was finally furnishing theband its long-deserved worldwide props. For Asheton, who'd stayed onthe periphery in a variety of punk and hard rock bands over the yearsbetween Stooges tours of duty, it was especially sweet: the man, afterall, ranked 29 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitaristsof all time.
In tribute to Ron Asheton, then, here are two versions of "TV Eye" toshow just how endlessly fiercesome a player he was--one from anationally televised Cincinnati show way back in 1970, and the otherfrom a 2004 performance in, of all places, Serbia.
As they say: search and destroy.